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Perth lockdown pauses trans-Tasman bubble to WA

written by Adam Thorn | April 24, 2021
A321-ANZ-ZKNNA-CNS-05NOV2018-3-Andrew-Belczacki-1_1170 v2
Air New Zealand Air bus A321neo ZK-NNA takes off from Cairns Airport. (Andrew Belczacki)

New Zealand has paused the trans-Tasman bubble to WA after Perth and the Peel region entered a three-day lockdown.

The state imposed the restrictions, which began at midnight on Friday, after a Victorian man who had spent five days in Perth subsequently tested positive for COVID.

Quarantine-free travel only started on Monday, but New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had warned the agreement would be temporarily halted in the event of a lockdown.

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New Zealand COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said Kiwis still in WA should follow local rules, which include mandatory mask-wearing.

“As set out in our trans-Tasman bubble protocols, travel between New Zealand and Western Australia has been paused, pending further advice from the state government,” Minister Hipkins said.

“New Zealand health officials are in contact with their Australian counterparts and are completing a risk assessment.

“This is an example of the type of scenario both countries have planned for.”

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The Victorian man who tested positive had completed two weeks of quarantine at a WA hotel.

He had dined at a Malaysian restaurant with a friend he was staying with, and visited a swimming pool in the southern suburbs.

As of Monday morning, just two cases of community transmission have been recorded, raising hopes the lockdown could end as planned on Tuesday.

However, WA Premier Mark McGowan said there would likely be “an extension in some form, of controls”.

“I’m sure there’ll be some further measures that continue. What they are, we won’t know until tomorrow morning,” he said.

“We’ll get health advice tomorrow morning, but I think people should get used to the prospect that there’ll be some further measures that are continued beyond Monday.

“We need to see more testing completed, and most importantly we need close contacts and casual contacts … to be tested.

“So please keep doing the right thing.”

When New Zealand announced it was starting quarantine-free travel, it said it was doing so under the guidance of what PM Ardern called “flyer beware”. In the event of a COVID cluster, the country will reserve the right to continue, pause or suspend the arrangement.

If a case was found that was clearly linked to a quarantine facility staff member and was well contained, travel will likely continue.

If a case was found that was not clearly linked, and a state responded by a short lockdown to identify more information, New Zealand would likely pause flights from that state in the same way as flights have been paused previously.

But if multiple cases occurred from an unknown origin, flights would likely be suspended for a set period of time.

It comes after a border worker at Auckland Airport tested positive for COVID earlier this week.

However, PM Ardern said on Tuesday the employee has a “very clear link at this stage to cases that are high-risk” because the person cleaned aircraft arriving from countries with large prevalence of the virus.

The two-way arrangement officially opened on 18 April at 11:59pm and on Monday Air New Zealand operated 30 flights, and Qantas and Jetstar 29.

Qantas and Jetstar will operate 83 per cent of their pre-COVID capacity to New Zealand now the bubble has launched, and also start two new routes from Auckland to Cairns and the Gold Coast.

In total, the Qantas Group revealed will operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman on 15 routes, or 52,000 seats each week. It has been operating at just 3 per cent pre-COVID capacity during the current one-way arrangement.

Air New Zealand’s 30 daily flights are set to grow to more than 300 per week operating from Brisbane, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth and Sydney into Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

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